Saturday, July 16, 2011

Setting up the Notebook 2011-2012

I sat down this week and started planning out my notebook. This year, besides changing the format to an interactive notebook style, I want my students to have more ownership by being more creative with their notebooks. To do this, my notebook (I keep one similar to my students, though mine has planning notes) is going to model creativity by adding color and lettering.

To start, I've laid out my table of contents. You'll see that some of it is already filled in (planning) that helps me establish what is going to go where. I've started with a Notebook Basics section that doesn't fit in with the interactive notebooking, this is okay to me since these are all the formatting things my students will need to refer to during the year.

There are no dates on some of the pages...I'd love to be able to predict these dates, but I'll have to wait until I get students!

Next up, are the Student Guidelines that help my students complete the major components of their notebooks. These are the same guidelines that can be found on the flash drive that MEMTA participants receive.

The next photograph is the format for the interactive notebook, showing what goes on the left and right sides of the notebook. I have used the Marcarelli book to help me with this and modified it for my class. I have claims and evidence on both sides. Early in the year it will be on the input (right) side since I will start by modeling these and then students will work as a group and bring them to our class discussions. When they start doing these on their own with partners or individually, they will move to the output (left) side of the notebook because it will show their own thinking, not that of a whole class.
The next page covers two pages, this is the notebook rubric that I use to evaluate my students. Now, it looks enormous  and it is but I don't use it all at one time. I will talk about rubrics in another blog. In the past, I have printed this off and had my students keep this and the science notebook guidelines in a three ring binder to refer to as needed. I'm changing it this year, again based on the Marcarelli book. This way there is no, "I can't find it" excuse. The rubric can also be found on the MEMTA flash drive. For anyone else, email me and I will send both my guidelines and rubric. My rubric is based on Michael Klentschy's work in his book Using Science Notebooks in Elementary Classrooms. I'll get on my soap box and do a blog on him later on!
The following page is the final in my "Notebook Basics" section. It is call the WOW! Connections page, again this is a modified version of something used in the Marcarelli book. It is essentially a place that students come back to again and again during the unit to add evidence to that supports the key concept, big idea, main question that is being studied during the unit.
I've also added my vocabulary cards to this. I used to do vocabulary cards where my students put their words and the definitions, then I moved to the Frayer Model and had the vocabulary words in a separate notebook. This year I debated putting the vocabulary into the science notebook (always do) but I've decided to go back to the cards mainly because Marcarelli showed punching a hole in the upper right hand corner and then putting the cards on a ring. I like this and will incorporate it with the Frayer Model. I will make a hanging folder file in a crate for my students, that way they can keep them in class except when they need to work with them. If I don't, I know there will be some loss. I will go into more detail about vocabulary on another day.

One of the first things we do in my class is "Think of a Scientist," I'm sure it's done in a lot of science classes. I have my students close their eyes and we visualize a scientist. I ask them to get pretty detailed and once they have this all thought out in their heads, they draw their scientist. They are required to show them in the setting in which they work with the tools they use. I then have them write about their scientist, explaining the basic information about what their scientist studies, what questions they are trying to answer and why they study or research what they do. Finally, they all stand up and I have them sit down by some of the common ways people think about scientists: mad crazy haired scientists, white males in a lab, white females in a lab, etc. Last is themselves, do they think about themselves as scientists? On the next page (though not designed yet) I'll take their photos, they'll be put into the notebook and students will brainstorm ways they might work like scientists.
Now, I'm getting to my content. I start with a unit on water quality, while not in my standards it's important to our location (NOLA participants remember what Dr. Mackey said, "Teach what is important for them to know about where they live.") Water quality education is really important to Haywood County and fifth graders learn a lot about our water, we test our water, and thankfully, it ties right into my weather unit and the water cycle. The following is the cover page for the unit, followed by a spot for the table of contents for the unit and a KLEW chart.

Finally is the WOW Connections page set up for the water unit. This will be worked on, at first, by modeling and working as small groups to whole class. Eventually students will be able to work through this together. As the school year starts and students start doing this work, I'll post their work samples. Right now, this is what I've done to start the year. Doing this has helped me think about what I want to start out with. Will I stay with this?? I don't know, we'll see. It's new and for me, something new has to happen at the beginning of the year, if not, I forget. Right after this page students will start with the interactive part of the notebook.

If you are just starting science notebooks for the first time, again, the Campbell/Fulton book is really helpful.


  1. This post is awesome! Thanks for putting in such hard work! I've been wanting to use science notebooks more often and more meaningfully so I look forward to hearing how this works in your classroom. In the meantime - thank for the link to the KLEW article! LOVE it!

    - Amanda Northrup

  2. Glad you like it Amanda. I have a ton of resources as in books if you'd like to borrow some. Check out my live binder on the blog, you'll find a whole bunch of articles there.

  3. Hi Carla, I thought your blogsite was awesome. I went to the NJ MEMTA and this is one of the resolves I have: science notebooks! I picked up some supplies today at Staples and will reference to your site a lot most likely. I have to modify it though for my special day class and see how it works out for them. I will definitely give you a feedback!

  4. Hi There, just got back from the MEMTA and was wondering if you had a copy of the Left Right paper and the wow connections organizer. I clicked enlarge on the picture of the WOW one, but I can't read the words. Thanks, Andrea...I can't wait for the new year to begin! :)

  5. Lawrence...thanks and best of luck on getting your notebooks started! Looking forward to seeing your feedback! Ms. me at and I'll send you those pages.

  6. I would love the 2 pictures as well--WOW and Left/Right. email is
    Thank you so much--your blog is great!